Friday, August 21, 2015

Guilty Pixels

-By Howard Lyon


When I was a kid, my dad bought a copy of Deluxe Paint.  It was a DOS based program, but it was an amazing leap forward for the home computer.  Somewhat tedious, but it didn't matter.  256 glorious colors!  The only limitation seemed to be the amount of time you were willing to spend clicking around with the mouse.  You could even cycle the palettes! *head spins*

Pixel art worm done for Eidos Games Revenant
A few years later, we had an Atari 1040 ST and we bought an updated copy of Deluxe Paint.  The new version had a similar interface, but you could use 4096 colors!  Mind blowing.  I spent many hours creating animations and paintings, one pixel at a time.  Little did I know it would prepare me for a future job.



While studying illustration at BYU I was hired at the video game company, Saffire.  To my surprise 10 years after first using the program, I was now getting paid to use Deluxe Paint to create art for Game Boy, Virtual Boy, Saturn, NES and PC games.  We also used Photoshop and Fractal Painter 3, but the DP was still the workhorse.  It created a real love for painting at the pixel level that continues today.  I don't do a lot, but I like to have a little taste here and there.


These days, most the pixel art I do is for the occasional video game in the form of icons.  Here is some work from a few of the games I have worked on:

Tabula Rasa - I had the chance to do nearly all of the icons for NCSoft's game Tabula Rasa.  It was a great project to do contract work for.  I did literally thousands of icons for the project.  Here is a sampling:







Stargate Worlds - I was the Art Director on Stargate Worlds and when it came time to get the icons done, I couldn't bring myself to outsource them.  I did about 1500 icons for the game, many of them at home to wind down for the day.



Star Wars: The Old Republic - Most recently I have been working on icons for Electronic Arts/Bioware's game.  I have done more than 2000 icons for the game.  I haven't done all the icons for the game, but I think over 90% judging by the icons I have seen in game.  It is a wonderful project to be part of, even if just for the icons.  Here is a tiny sample of the work I have done for SWTOR.



I hope you enjoyed seeing some of these little paintings.  I don't use Deluxe Paint anymore, but I learned a lot from those days.  I find Corel Painter is great for pixel art, and Photoshop has some great tools too (like creating a new window so you can see it at multiple zoom levels at the same time).

I spend most of my days with a brush in hand, and oil paint on canvas, but the occasional dip back in the pixel pot is refreshing.

Thank you,

Howard Lyon


22 comments:

  1. This is amazing! All of these are so detailed and beautiful.

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  2. Great work Howard, incredible versatility! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Tom, always good to see you on Muddy Colors!

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  3. If I may ask, how long does it take you to complete icons like these? Do you work at the scale that is shown here, or do you paint larger and then scale down? They are so tiny, yet they look incredibly clean and detailed. Love it!

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    1. It depends on the icon. Sometimes they take about 15 minutes, others will take an hour or so. Thank you for the response!

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  4. Blown away. 2,000 icons for one game by one guy? "Inconceivable!" Not my forte, for sure. Truly, I cannot imagine that process and that much attention to detail. At what size did you do them?

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    1. :) I did them all at 100x100. Sometimes they get used at 50x50 as well.

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  5. Wow! I can't comprehend doing so many pixel icons. That's amazing! Also I love that you said your interest in the software you used as a child was preparing you for your future job.

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  6. Yes, icons! Masterful work, sir. Every company I've worked for underestimates how much time and skill goes into these things, but eventually comes around with proper examples and education. I got started with Deluxe Paint as well using the Amiga 1000. Even after 14 years in game dev learning to make every pixel count from those early days has paid off. Good times.

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    1. That is awesome. I always wanted an Amiga. My Atari ST was a great machine, but he Amiga had much more art software. Amazing how limited, but capable those old machines really were.

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  7. Wow! I can't comprehend doing so many pixel icons. That's amazing! Also I love that you said your interest in the software you used as a child was preparing you for your future job.

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  8. How cool! I had no idea!

    I love pixel art. There's something about the inherent restrictions of the medium that make it so much fun. And weirdly, doing a thousand of these little icons actually sounds like a great experience.

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    1. They are oddly satisfying. I am glad that I don't do it full time, but when the gigs come around, they are a relaxing break. Finishing many little jobs each day is very fulfilling! :) I agree about the restrictions part of it. The constraint of just a limited amount of pixels has opened up a lot of ideas that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

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  9. Put them all together and wow. My version of this is hundreds of ink drawings for catalogs. I can still draw the hell out of a stapler or pencil sharpener. Strangely enough the ruler was the hardest. Nice to see this side of you Howard.

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    1. Thank you Bill! Now I want to see some of your catalog work!

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  10. *clicks to view high-res sample*
    ... followed by ...
    *facepalm*

    Great work on these. The sheer variety of subject matters is astounding ... and these are just samples of bigger body of work. Stunning!

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  11. Yes, icons! Masterful work, sir. Every company I've worked for underestimates how much time and skill goes into these things, but eventually comes around with proper examples and education. I got started with Deluxe Paint as well using the Amiga 1000. Even after 14 years in game dev learning to make every pixel count from those early days has paid off. Good times.

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  12. FANTASTIC. I had no idea you were working on SWTOR! I'm an avid player. Can't wait for the next xpac :)

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    1. I think the next release is going to be pretty epic. My boys are always excited to see the new lists of icons come in, in anticipation of what the expansion will hold.

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